The race between second and third in the Italian Serie A remains at full pace after both registered another victory, though neither Roma or Napoli having it all their own way to seeing off Udinese and Torino.
I Giallorossi edged out a 3-2 win at the Stadio Olimpico thanks to a goal on his return from Francesco Totti and some fine goalkeeping from Morgan De Sanctis. Totti put the second-placed side in front with Mattia Destro adding a second, with De Sanctis making fine stops after each goal.
Giampiero Pinzi did finally pull a goal back for Udinese early in the second half, but Vasilis Torosidis restored Roma’s two-goal lead midway through the second half. De Sanctis made another excellent save before Dusan Basta set up a grandstand finish, but Roma held on move three points clear of third-placed Napoli and remain on course for a place in the UEFA Champions League next season.
Totti made his return to the Roma side after over a month out, and it took him just 22 minutes to get his name on the scoresheet. Miralem Pjanic squared for Gervinho, whose shot was saved by Simone Scuffet, but the ball fell out for the Roma captain, who swept it into the bottom left-hand corner from close to the penalty spot.
A minute later, De Sanctis made a fine one-handed save low down to his left to keep Emmanuel Badu’s shot out as Udinese threatened an immediate riposte. But instead, it was Roma who extended their lead on the half-hour mark. A sublime Totti pass picked out Gervinho, who threaded a ball through perfectly for Destro, before the Italian took it round Scuffet and slid it into the unguarded goal.
Like after the first goal, Udinese nearly replied immediately, but for another stunning stop from De Sanctis, who received the compliments of the man he denied, Antonio Di Natale. Udinese finally reduced the arrears in the 51st minute when Pinzi was allowed to progress to the edge of the area, from where he shot low into the far corner of the goal.
Just like Pinzi, Torosidis was then allowed to approach the area and shoot from 25 yards low into the bottom right-hand corner, restoring Roma’s two-goal advantage in the 69th minute. For the third time, the visitors went close to an immediate reply when De Sanctis once again denied Di Natale, but the visitors kept up the pressure and pulled another goal back.
Ten minutes from time when Danilo’s header was pushed out by the Roma goalkeeper to Basta, who finally got the better of the last line of the Roma defence from close range. Alessandro Florenzi wasted the chance to settle Roma’s nerves from Pjanic’s pass, but Roma held on for all three points.
Napoli strike late
Gonzalo Higuain’s last-gasp goal earned Napoli an unlikely three points at Torino to keep up the pressure on Roma. Torino, who have now lost their last four games, had the better of the match from start to finish, hitting the post twice before Higuain broke their hearts in the last minute. The win handed Napoli a ten-point advantage over fourth-placed Fiorentina.
Torino coach Giampiero Ventura boldly chose to leave both Alessio Cerci and Ciro Immobile on the bench after a barren run, putting his faith instead in Riccardo Meggiorini and Paulo Barreto. It seemed to be the right choice too as the Granata attack posed a greater threat than in recent weeks, when they had failed to score in three games. Meggiorini missed the target before fizzing his next effort straight at Jose Reina. Cesare Bovo then struck the outside of the right-hand post with Reina beaten on the half-hour mark.
There was little coming from Napoli’s attack until Higuain nearly got in early in the second half, shooting straight at Daniele Padelli with only his second chance of the evening. A minute later, Meggiorini found a way through, but only hit the outside of the left-hand post with his shot. Matteo Darmian’s shot from 20 yards was subsequently tipped over as Torino continued to threaten an opening goal.
Immobile came on for the final 25 minutes and contrived to waste the best chance of the night. He received the ball from Jasmin Kurtic, but, with time on his hands, he shot first time and lifted the ball over from ten yards out.
It proved to be a costly miss as Napoli snatched victory in the last minute. Higuain left his marker on the ground as he raced into the penalty area, controlled the ball and fired through Padelli, who did not get enough on the shot to keep it out. It was a cruel ending for Torino, but a vital win for Napoli.